In the final act of this play, "evil" is brought to "justice." The place­ment of this act at the end is critical because it gives meaning to the two previous stories. The imagery is stark. Mike Tyson is the brute valued by the master only for the strength of his back and arms. He is white America’s worst/favorite nightmare.52

Tyson could not have been more perfectly cast for the role of the rapist—he fit all the time-honored stereotypes of the violent, sexual, savage, unintelligent, irresponsible, scary black male.53 The Sports Il­lustrated cover story on the trial described Tyson as "a single-purpose organism, bred for bad intentions and well maintained for its unique ability to enact violent public spectacles, but entirely unsuited for real life."54 Before he was twenty his extraordinary physical prowess and rage were harnessed and commodified for an American public fasci­nated and titillated by the sight of raw violence. "You can’t look away from a Tyson fight because you know that at any moment something terrible is going to happen," said Jimmy Jacobs, one of Tyson’s former co-managers.55 And a Washington Post columnist admitted:

I have this terrible conflict about Tyson. I was never so thrilled by an athlete as I was by him. I never found anything in sports as heart­stopping, as nerve-tingling as watching Tyson. . . race furiously across the ring at the sound of the opening bell, bent on dismantling his opponent. I saw in him a nobility of effort, a profound commit­ment to courage, a bright and shining honor.56

Feminist theorists will recognize in the vicarious pleasure that men derive from watching Tyson the same elements that make pornography a multimillion-dollar business.57 The fascination of hearing about Tyson the rapist is not so different from the thrill de­rived from seeing him in the ring. A woman friend of mine wondered aloud about the fact that the Tyson trial was reported mostly on the sports pages. "Does this mean that rape has become a sport?" she said.58

"PERFECT VICTIM," read the Newsweek headline.

Unlike Patricia Bowman, who lost her date rape case against William Kennedy Smith, Tyson’s accuser came across on the stand as the perfect victim. Now a scholarship student at a Roman Catholic college, she was barely eighteen when she arrived at the beauty pageant. Growing up in Rhode Island, she was apparently the all-American girl: She played softball, ushered at her church, and volunteered as a Big Sister. The court heard about her high school days as a varsity cheerleader, class president, and most out­standing sophomore.59

During the trial Desiree Washington "spoke in a high-pitched, almost childlike voice, used words like ‘neat’ and ‘yucky’ and admitted to being star struck." Prosecutor Greg Garrison said the jury was sold on "that beautiful eighteen-year-old kid with a pure heart. . . this is a very very special young woman."60 If Desiree Washington is the "per­fect victim," who are the not-so-perfect victims? Are they the prosti­tutes found raped and dead whose cases are never investigated? Are they women, like Anita Hill, who are strong, intelligent, aggressive, and ambitious, who do not know their place?

Garrison is quoted as saying, "If Tyson had been a kid from the projects this trial would have been over in two days."61 He meant this not as an admission that poor kids don’t get a fair shake but as fur­ther evidence that the system will protect women even when their rapists are rich and powerful. But what if Desiree Washington had been a kid from the projects? What if she had been the not so perfect victim? Would her rapist ever have been brought to trial? If we are to believe the statistics, the changes are slim to none. These statistics suggest that African American women are most likely to be raped and least likely to be believed. When their rapists are convicted, they do less time. A study in Dallas revealed that the average prison term for a man convicted of raping a black woman was two years. Where the victims were white, the sentence was ten years.62

The Tyson guilty verdict was an exception to the rule. It was an aberration in a system that devalues the bodies and lives of women of color, an anomaly necessitated by the need to shore up the story that tells us we are ever closer to the achievement of equal justice under law.63 Ms. Washington is allowed to play "Miss Anne,"64 the perfect victim, so that women can be told that men have heard them, so that we can all be convinced that any woman can say no and be taken seri­ously. But my sister Desiree is no safer today than she was before Mike Tyson’s conviction, and that is the tragedy.

The message of the Tyson verdict, like the message of the Master Narrative of which it is a part, is intended to mystify and mislead. It should not be a cause for celebration. It should be a call to continue the fight.

CONCLUSION

The cultural story about race, gender, and sexuality that I have called the Master Narrative shapes our images of self and others and in so doing helps to maintain the mutually reinforcing systems of white su­premacy, patriarchy, and class oppression. It is a powerful story be­cause it is so deeply rooted in our history and cultural consciousness. It has been told so often that it is sometimes hard for us to see that it is just a story. Much of the Master Narrative’s power comes from the taboo against talking about it, against naming it and speaking of its origins and purposes. First we must break the taboo. We must talk candidly to one another about black sexuality. We must speak forth­rightly and honestly about the distortions of the myth and the reali­ties of sexism and misogyny within our community. This talk is nec­essary for the liberation of black men as well as black women. It is necessary for the deconstruction of the Master Narrative. It is neces­sary for the reconstruction of a new, more liberating story of our own.